FORMER Shoalhaven Heads SLSC member Wes Berg made an emotional return to the surf last weekend, just 12 months after breaking his neck in a surfing accident.
Affectionately known as ‘Ice’, the 37-year-old said 2016 was the most challenging year of his life, which saw him have to teach himself how to swim and even walk again.
“Everyone says ‘oh you poor thing, it’s bad luck’, but I feel really lucky because there’s other people who had the same break as me and they’re still in a wheelchair,” Berg said.
“You just really appreciate how lucky you are to have an able body, and also to have healthy kids.
“My wife Jade [Sutcliffe], who was heavily pregnant with Tally [their now 11-month old son] had to dress me each day, wash me, lay me down, stand me up, as I was incapable.
“My main goal was to be able to pick up my new baby and to be able to play with my kids in 10 years time.”
Berg’s competitive return in the weekend’s North Wollongong’s Summer of Surf series was more about getting back out there and proving he could still compete, instead of actually winning.
“In Friday’s heat, I fell way behind in the ski leg, leaving me with the daunting task of trying to catch up,” he said.
“But I dug deep and managed to qualify for Saturday’s final in the last spot, which I was stoked about.
“I then backed it up in the final to finish seventh out of the 23 athletes that lined up in the final and 60 that competed over the two days.
“The guys I was competing against were some of the fittest athletes in the world and to perform the way I did, was fantastic.”
Berg will now continue training, ahead of what he is hoping to be his career swansong at North Cronulla.
“The plan now is to keep ticking along with training, with my next competition being at the start of February at the Surfers Paradise,” he said.
“From that, I hope to secure a wildcard spot for the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series at North Cronulla in March.
“This would be a perfect way for me to finish off my career before I retire. Everyone I’ve spoken to has told me to end my career of my own terms and that’s what I plan to do.”